The Ethics of Protest

Question: What ethical dilemmas have you faced and how did you resolved them?

Noam Chomsky: There's fundamental questions that are arising all the time.  Like, how do I distribute my work and energy and effort?  Every minute of the day you have to face such questions.  Sometimes they're—I wouldn't exactly call it an ethical dilemma, but—although I guess it is. 

For example, in the early '60s, I had to make a really hard, for me, hard decision.  Should I start becoming really active, instead of just talking, in critical human issues that were arising then?  The war in Vietnam, the growing war in Vietnam, civil rights movement, many others.  So should I become really active in those or should I devote my time and energy to very exciting intellectual work and to my growing family?  I had little children.

Well, that's a hard decision. 

I knew perfectly well that you can't just put your foot in it and walk away.  If you get started, it's a growing commitment.  And my wife [Carol Chomsky] and I had to work that out in some fashion.  It was not simple.  In fact, at one point, she actually had to go back to college after 17 years because it looked as though—if I might serve a long prison sentence and we had three kids to take care of.  Well, there's decisions, that's a serious decision, but there are lots of others all the time.

Recorded on: Aug 18, 2009

Noam Chomsky recounts how his anti-Vietnam War activities nearly jeopardized his family.

Live on Monday: Does the US need one billion people?

What would happen if you tripled the US population? Matthew Yglesias and moderator Charles Duhigg explore the idea on Big Think Live.

Big Think LIVE

Is immigration key to bolstering the American economy? Could having one billion Americans secure the US's position as the global superpower?

Keep reading Show less

Landau Genius Scale ranking of the smartest physicists ever

How Nobel Prize winner physicist Lev Landau ranked the best physics minds of his generation.

Photo by: Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • Nobel-Prize-winning Soviet physicist Lev Landau used a scale to rank the best physicists of the 20th century.
  • The physicist based it on their level of contribution to science.
  • The scale was logarithmic, with each level being 10 times more valuable.
  • Keep reading Show less

    Universe works like a cosmological neural network, argues new paper

    Controversial physics theory says reality around us behaves like a computer neural network.

    Credit: sakkmesterke
    Surprising Science
    • Physicist proposes that the universe behaves like an artificial neural network.
    • The scientist's new paper seeks to reconcile classical physics and quantum mechanics.
    • The theory claims that natural selection produces both atoms and "observers".
    Keep reading Show less

    Mystery anomaly weakens Earth's magnetic field, report scientists

    A strange weakness in the Earth's protective magnetic field is growing and possibly splitting, shows data.

    ESA
    Surprising Science
    • "The South Atlantic Anomaly" in the Earth's magnetic field is growing and possibly splitting, shows data.
    • The information was gathered by the ESA's Swarm Constellation mission satellites.
    • The changes may indicate the coming reversal of the North and South Poles.
    Keep reading Show less

    We studied what happens when guys add their cats to their dating app profiles

    43% of people think they can get a sense of someone's personality by their picture.

    Photo by Luigi Pozzoli on Unsplash
    Sex & Relationships

    If you've used a dating app, you'll know the importance of choosing good profile pics.

    Keep reading Show less
    Quantcast